KCPE candidates

Seme MP James Nyikal (left) joins in celebrating Castro Williams and Faith Akinyi, the top KCPE candidates in his constituency, on April 18, 2021at their home in Seme, Kisumu County. The two, who aspire to become doctors, scored 431 and 405 marks, respectively.  Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

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We didn’t favour public schools, says Education PS

What you need to know:

  • Early Learning and Basic Education PS denies claims that moderation of tests turned tables on private academies.
  • Parents are now worried that the performance will jeopardise chances of their children securing places in coveted national schools.

The government has denied engaging in manipulation of KCPE results in favour of public primary schools, even as owners of private academies raised questions over the sudden dip in performance of their institutions.

Private schools have for decades produced the bulk of top students in national exams, but public institutions turned the tables on them in last year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE).

The Early Learning and Basic Education principal secretary, Dr Julius Jwan, in an interview yesterday, however, denied accusations that moderation of the results was done to favour public school candidates, dismissing the claims as a myth.

“Why would we do it this time? What would we want to achieve? These are all Kenyan children and they did quite well. Let’s not do business and play politics with the future of young people,” he told the Nation, adding that standardisation cannot be done for selected schools only but for the entire examination.

Dr Jwan said that the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic might have affected the performance of private schools since many of them faced financial difficulties and hence released their teachers while others were on half pay.

“When we reopened for Standard Eight and Grade Four, they brought in only a few teachers for those classes whereas all teachers came back in public schools. This gave a lot of support to the candidates. This could have been a factor,” he said. 

Kenyan private schools ordinarily charge parents a premium based on the strength of their superior exam performance, as well as their better infrastructure and facilities compared to public learning institutions.

Magoha releases 2020 KCPE exam results

Heartbroken

The shift in performance, albeit for one year, puts the private academies at a disadvantage, as it takes away a key bargaining chip that they have used over the years to stay in business. This is notable more so given that private schools continued engaging students in online classes for most of last year when learning was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I can’t tell what happened. How do I explain how a learner who has never scored below 440 ended up getting 402? There’s something fishy that was done during marking. We need answers... People will then be satisfied and move on,” Mr Patrick Nyaga, the director of Elite Heritage Schools in Chokaa, Nairobi, captured the disappointment of many teachers in private schools.

Whereas Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha celebrated the performance of public schools, private school parents and managers are still expressing doubts over the outcome.

The head of Kitengela International School, John Wanyonyi, told the Nation that they had projected about 10 of their candidates would score above 430 marks, based on how they were performing before the examinations. The top two candidates at the school, Timothy Konya Abwao and Mercy Mwende Kioko, tied at 422 marks.

“We are heartbroken. Our top candidates never even celebrated as they would have liked to,” he said. 

In the 2019 examinations, Sean Michael Ndungu from the school scored 439 marks, just one behind the top candidate nationally. Mr Wanyonyi said only the scores of the top candidates appear to have been affected, with the rest remaining relatively the same.

“Many parents do not know how to face their shell-shocked children to explain the poor results. In all fairness, everybody knows that (many) private schools are well-endowed with learning resources. It goes without saying that because of this, learning in private schools should return favourable results,” a parent said in a parents’ WhatsApp group.

Top candidates

Parents are now worried that the performance will jeopardise chances of their children securing places in coveted national schools.

They are unhappy because during the nine-month-break forced by the Covid-19 pandemic, many had invested in electronic gadgets and data bundles to facilitate virtual learning while others hired private tutors for their children.

“The performance of our top candidates dropped, the rest were not affected,” Mr Nyaga said.

Over the years, private schools have topped the lists of best performing schools and their candidates have dominated the top positions. However, this year, only five of them made it to the hallowed list of top 15.

For example, Ruaraka Academy, which has often produced top performers, was missing in the list. The school was position 1 in Nairobi County in 2017 with its best candidate scoring 439 marks. In 2018, the top candidate had 430 marks followed by another with 428 marks while two others tied at 427 marks. Thirty-four candidates had over 400 marks and 46 of them had between 350 and 399 marks.

However, this year, the top candidate at the school, Ngugi Gemm Wega Wairimu, had 416 marks. Thirty-one candidates scored above 400 marks and the class, which had 113 candidates, attained a mean score of 377.36.

Another top city academy, Makini School, has topped the national charts for a number of years, but this year, the first two candidates tied at 421 marks, way below the score by Faith Kawee Mumo who was number one nationally with 433 marks. Thirty-eight candidates at Makini scored above 400 marks. 

Some of the public schools that posted impressive results include Kathigiri Boarding from Meru County which has a mean score of 392.32. St Peter’s Mumias Boys Primary School follows closely with a mean score of 391.36. Out of a candidature of 254, 88 candidates scored 400 and above.

Magoha dismisses ghost candidates claims

No spoon feeding

Dr Jwan’s assertion corroborated an explanation by a senior Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) official who said the results from public schools do not come as a surprise, as the Covid-19 pandemic might have tilted the balance in their favour.

“Teachers in public schools nurture learners in the correct way. There is no spoon feeding and when those children are presented with challenging tasks and measured alongside the ones spoon-fed in private schools, they will perform better,” said the Knec official who requested anonymity, citing sensitivity of the matter.

The Kenya Private Schools Association chief executive, Mr Peter Ndoro, told the Nation that the overall performance of private schools is good when viewed in the context of the circumstances under which the candidates prepared for and wrote the examinations.

He denied claims of discrimination against private schools, adding that the performance of public schools also dropped.

“We don’t have anything out of the ordinary. This (declined performance) is just a perception which is not based on fact. Knec did their best and we have nothing to show that private schools were targeted or disadvantaged,” he said.

Mr Ndoro explained that parents’ are disappointed because their expectations of good performance by their children were not met.

“Parents expected that their children would perform well as they have been performing, but we cannot underestimate the effect of Covid-19. Private schools had online classes but they can’t be as effective as face-to-face learning. The children were learning from home, but the environment isn’t as good as at school,” he said. 

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